Upper and lower back pain when sleeping is a real drag—literally. It can sap your energy and leave you dreading another restless night. And your spine needs rest.
But getting the rest needed to get rid of lower back pain while sleeping can be quite the challenge. Some wake up with worse back pain in the morning than when they hit the sheets.
Many get caught up in a cycle where they desperately need a good night’s sleep for their back to recover (not to mention for their general health) but are unable to do so because back pain is keeping them up at night.
Here are five steps that can help you straighten your back while sleeping and get rid of that lower back pain.
Step 1: Make Sure You Have the Right EquipmentBy equipment, we’re talking the right mattress and pillow for you and your sleeping style and possibly a back brace for extra support while sleeping.
Choose a Good Mattress
Your mattress should support the natural curves of your body while keeping you comfortable.
Up until recently, it was thought that those dealing with lower back pain in the morning should switch to a firmer mattress. But experts have moved away from that one-solution-fits-all thought process.
“A soft mattress can be good if your hips are wider than your waist because it will let your spine stay straight while you sleep. If your hips and waist already line up straight, a harder mattress might feel better because it will give you more support,” according to WebMD.
Ultimately, you will need to spend some time trying out different mattresses to get the right fit. Many companies even allow you try out their product for a few weeks or even months and return it if the product is not right for you.
If you think a firmer mattress may help, you can try one out by sliding a sheet of plywood between your mattress and boxspring or moving your bed to the floor for a few nights.
Some other key considerations include the age of your mattress (these should be replaced every nine to 10 years), temperature management and whether it’s big enough for you to get into a comfortable sleeping position.
Pick the Right Pillow(s)
Much like a mattress, a pillow should support the natural curve of your neck and keep it aligned with the chest and lower back while allowing you to get comfortable.
The specific type of pillow that is will vary depending on your go-to sleeping position. If you will be sleeping on your back, you will need a fluffier pillow than someone sleeping on their side or stomach if you want to avoid morning back pain. Most pillows are labeled as to what sleeping position they are intended.
Pillows also have a shelf life. Most experts recommend replacing the pillow you rest your head on every year or so. But hang onto those old pillows… you can use them to support other areas of the body.
You will likely need pillows outside of the one for your head to get into the best sleeping position for lower back pain. We’ll have more on that shortly.
Try Out a Back Brace at Night for Added Support
While wearing a back brace to bed should not be a long-term solution, doing so can give you short-term relief of a sore back at night so you don’t keep waking up. You need those zzzs to get your back on the mend.
This lower back support for sleeping has a pocket that can hold a gel pack for heat or ice therapy. I don’t know about you, but going to sleep with a heating pad soothing my stiff, aching back sounds pretty heavenly. This is a great way to relax the back at night.
This brace supports the lower back while you’re sleeping, plus it can help prevent you from twisting in damaging ways as you sleep.
It’s also great if the cause of your bad back is a recent injury, as the compression and support can bring down inflammation and speed along healing.
How to Put on a Night Back Brace in a Minute or Less
- Insert a gel pad for heat or cold therapy or a pressure pad into the built-in pocket (this step is optional).
- Wrap the brace around your waist and position it so that the gel pack pocket is centered over your back. It can be applied over or under your clothes.
- Wrap the left end of the support to the front of the body and secure the right side of the brace to its Velcro closure, pulling it tight as you do so.
- Repeat this process with the thinner closure strap for an added layer of support.
- Lie down to see if any more fit adjustments are necessary. It should fit snuggly, but it shouldn’t be uncomfortable or restrict your breathing.
Step 2: Keep Your Ears, Shoulders, and Hips Aligned When You SleepKeeping your body aligned as you sleep is one of the most important things you can do to prevent back pain after sleeping. Specifically, your ears, shoulders, and hips should be lined up when you sleep. There is not necessarily a “best” sleeping position for back pain. This varies based on the person and the source of their discomfort, much like there is no one mattress or pillow that works best for everyone. But with each sleeping position, you can use pillows and rolled towels to straighten your spine as you sleep.
How to Use Pillows to Get Rid of a Hunchback/Overly Arched Back While Sleeping:
- Back sleeper: Stick a pillow under your knees and possibly a small, rolled towel beneath the small of your back.
- Stomach sleeper: Use a flat pillow or no pillow to reduce strain on the neck. You can also stick a flat pillow beneath your abdomen/hips to lessen the strain on the lower back.
- Side sleeper: Stick a pillow between your knees and draw them up slightly toward your chest.
Step 3: Make Sure to Keep Things Aligned When You Roll Over or Get UpKeeping your back aligned is not only important when you’re lying still in bed. Rolling over, midnight trips to the bathroom and getting up for the day all pose the risk of a wrong turn that could derail your efforts to relieve lower, middle or upper back pain while sleeping. When you roll over in bed, tucking your knees tight to the chest, contracting the abdomen and concentrating on moving the trunk as one unit can stop you from wrenching or twisting the back. It might help to picture your core as a log or envisioning a steel rod running the length of the spine as you move. When you get up for the day or a trip to the bathroom, you should follow these steps:
- Bend your knees and put your feet flat on the bed.
- Roll onto your side, making sure to move your trunk as one unit so you don’t twist it.
- Use both hands to push yourself up to a seated position. Again, don’t twist your spine.
- Bend forward from the hips and keep your back straight as you push your feet down to the floor, with one foot a bit in front of the other.
- Straighten both legs at the same time as you stand up.
Step 4: Use Good Posture During the Day
Keeping your back straight at night and throwing posture to the wind during the day is a recipe for disaster. Your bad practices during the day can derail your efforts to counteract them at night. For the best results, you will need to focus on sitting or standing up straight with your shoulders back and your whole body in alignment. That might sound like a simple enough task, but bad posture habits can be tough to break. For that reason, many people turn to a posture brace that can keep them from slouching or hunching forward when their attention is on other things.
You can find more tips on good posture here.